Monday, December 1, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

  • Congratulations to Madison Bowey and Rourke Chartier for being two of 29 players named to the training camp roster for the Canadian World Junior team. Both have won gold for Canada in the past at the Under 18's in the Czech Republic. The only downside of those two players attempting to crack the Canada line up is both will miss the Kelowna Rockets five game Alberta road trip prior to the Christmas break. Those are two massive pieces of the puzzle missing from the line up as their home team attempts to win games in Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Edmonton and Red Deer.
  • I hate interviewing coaches after losses. Why? The answers are extremely short. When Dan Lambert loses, which isn't often, his sound bites are 10 seconds in length. That is a sure sign he's pee'd off at his teams' play and is biting his tongue. That said, when Ryan Huska was ticked at his team after a loss, he named names. Huska often didn't hold back and called a spade a spade. The more we poked and asked questions the more he became an open book.        
  • The best post game show comment came from former Kelowna Rockets assistant coach Jeff Finley after a lopsided loss in Vancouver a couple of years ago. After the game, as the home broadcasters we attempted to find some positive in the loss. Finley would have none of it. "Were we ever in the game?", he said bluntly.    
  • One of  the best lines on our post game show a few years back came from former colour commentator David Michaud. Michaud boldly said the turning point of the game after a Rockets road loss was, "when the players got off the bus". Great line, but it didn't exactly sit well with some people. 
  • It was interesting talking with John Paddock, the new head coach of the Regina Pats. I asked him how he handles his players after spending so many years coaching at the pro level. Relating to today's junior players has changed dramatically and getting your message across as a coach speaking to a pro player differs greatly to a teenager between the ages of 16 and 20. Last week we saw the Vancouver Giants fire Troy Ward for his apparent lack of success and rumored communication problems with the younger players. "I think you have to treat people the same", Paddock told me when dealing with pro and junior athletes. "Maybe (while they were in pro) they weren't treating the pro's right?", Paddock ventured to guess. "I don't think their is a reason not to have communication with the players. Communication keeps an open channel between yourself and your players".
  • I asked Paddock if his team can compete against the Eastern Conference leading Brandon Wheat Kings, and if not, what would it take to be at a level playing field with Kelly McCrimmon's team? "Probably a couple of years", Paddock said bluntly. "Our time isn't now. It is probably Brandon's and Kelowna's now. We know we are not going to play in the final four this year", Paddock added after signing a four year deal with the Pats in July.    
  • The Pats look like they are set for a long playoff run with six 19 year-old players who can make a significant impact. Despite that talent pool, Paddock surprised me with his answer when I asked him about being a possible buyer at the trade deadline. "We are going to move some 19 year-old players. They all can't be back as overagers next year. I guess you could say we are sellers."
  • I am still a little confused as to why the Vancouver Giants fired head coach Troy Ward after just 25 games. His systems weren't working is what appeared to be the main reason for his dismissal. But realistically, did the Giants see themselves significantly better this year after Don Hay got the most out of that team in 2013-2014? I anticipated it being a struggle for the G-Men this season and it would be awfully hard for a new coach to turn the teams' fortunes around after less than two and a half months at the helm. That is why Ward's dismissal goes far deeper than his systems not working at the major junior level.
  • Kamloops Blazers head coach Don Hay knew what he was doing. The veteran coach jumped ship in the off-season before the Giants vessel went down. He won't admit it, but he must have seen it coming. Had Hay not bolted to the Blazers, would he be in the unemployment line right now after the Giants rough start?
  • The best interview I had this week came from Tri City goaltender Eric Comrie. Now 19, Comrie is a great goaltender and a pretty darn good interview. I spoke to him Tuesday and he had high praise for his time in the WHL. "The Western Hockey League is the best junior league in the world. You really become a man. You grow up fast. The WHL does an unbelievable job to mature. You meet life long friends that will be buddies forever". 
  • What is it like to be Eric Comrie, a impact player who can literally win a game on his own? "I think hockey is the ultimate team game. It takes 20 guys to achieve a win. I am just a part of helping a team win a game on some nights where we maybe don't deserve to win."
  • What would it mean for Comrie to represent Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships this Christmas in Toronto and Montreal? "It is a dream of mine. It is a goal." Goal accomplished Eric!! Comrie was one of two goaltenders that made the team.      
  • Why do so many people have a hard time pronouncing Rourke Chartier's name? It isn't Chart-ee-ay. It is Char-chay. Throw a french twist on it when you say it. It is like Dan Lambert. It is Lam-bair, not Lam-burt.  
  • I didn't know what to expect when the Rockets acquired Rodney Southam from the Tri City Americans. I didn't expect him to score, but I also didn't expect him to drop the gloves and play an aggressive role. The 18 year-old has dropped the gloves four times since joining the team. "I have dodged a couple (punches) but I've also ate a couple too", Southam said with a chuckle.
  • I was pleased to see Kris Schmidli being named to Switzerland's roster for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships. The 18 year-old Kelowna Rockets forward admitted he was home sick last season and it affected his play on the ice. This season he is a much better mind space. "I feel really good here. I don't feel home sick at all. I have really good billets here. I have good friends here. I feel free on the ice. I feel good here", Schmidli told me a day after he was named to the Switzerland roster. Schmidli says his mother will likely fly into Toronto to take in the World Junior Hockey Championships and spent a portion of Christmas with him.
  • Best player I saw this week was Regina Pats forward Morgan Klimchuk. A first round pick of the Calgary Flames, Klimchuk has great speed, can deliver the puck quickly and his compete level is where I expected it to be. I would have liked to see the Rockets play a physical game against him to see how he handled that element of the game. Does he shy away? Does he disappear when the going gets tough? If the Pats trade him, which John Paddock says is a likely possibility, the return will be significant. 
  • Connor Gay is a pretty good story for the Pats. Now 19, Gay has 31 points in 27 games. Not drafted by a WHL team, Gay had 19 goals and 43 points last season as an 18 year-old. The Saskatoon resident had a pretty good final season of midget hockey(32 goals with Saskatoon Blazers) before spending time in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League two seasons ago. Now he leads his team in scoring!!
  • Claude Noel is the new head coach of the Vancouver Giants. Interesting move. Noel is now the fifth  coach in the WHL with NHL head coaching experience. The others according to my calculations are Don Hay, Kevin Constantine, Brent Sutter and John Paddock.     
  • Former Rockets' forward Blake Comeau is having a good season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Comeau has 14 points, two off the 16 he collected in 61 games last season in Columbus. Comeau, 28, had a career high 24 goals with the New York Islanders in 2010-2011. 

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